CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A former Fortune 500 executive told police he was depressed and aiming to kill himself when he drove his full-size pick-up truck across a grassy highway median, went airborne and crushed to death a young Vermont couple expecting their first child in January.
Robert Dellinger, 53, survived the suicide attempt with cuts on his head and face. He was charged with reckless manslaughter, a crime that carries 15-30 years in prison if convicted.
But what was going through Dellinger’s mind and whether he showed “extreme indifference” to human life could get him a more serious charge of second-degree murder that carries up to life in prison.
Jason Timmons, 29, and Amanda Murphy, 24, suffered injuries a medical examiner said were consistent with a plane crash. The unborn child did not survive.
Veteran defense attorney and University of New Hampshire law school professor Albert “Buzz” Scherr said he has no doubt prosecutors are considering elevating the charges to murder, but hastened to add there’s little precedent for a case like Dellinger’s.
“It’s such strange and outrageous behavior,” Scherr said. “There’s a vacuum in terms of the details of what was in his mind.
“If he’s focused on committing suicide, is he thinking about other people’s lives? Or does it fall closer to driving really fast and hoping you go so fast you go off the road and kill yourself and you’re not thinking about anyone else?”
Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell said last week they are considering additional charges against Dellinger, who left as a senior vice president and chief financial officer of PPG Industries in 2011 because of health issues. He had also worked for Sprint, Delphi and General Electric.
Asked why Dellinger wasn’t charged with second-degree murder at the outset, Morrell said, “We’re still collecting evidence. We examine the evidence and pursue the appropriate charges.”